An Indecent Proposal?

A curious rumor has popped up in Chinese media over the weekend - one which states that North Korea is promoting transnational marriages as a means to attract foreign investment. This financial site, for example, attributing the "Chinese News Net" (中国新闻网), says that for a fee of 300,000 yuan a foreign man can obtain a marriage license in Korea. With the dashing suitor then bonded to a family, he is then expected to make further investments. Failing to do so will result in a 1,000,000 fine.

So far, this difficult-to-believe story hasn't made a splash on the English-language web. Some of the more obvious search terms give results for mostly crappy translation-bot blogs and websites. The only 'reputable' site to carry the story is the illustrious Global Times, which cites a defector group, rather than any Chinese sources for the information. Writes the Global Times:

"The North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS), a group of North Korean dissidents resident in South Korea, claimed that entrepreneurs who want to marry North Korean beauties need to pay a deposit of $47,130 to get permission from North Korean authorities, the report said."

The NKIS helpfully goes on offer that "the promotion of transnational marriages at a national level proves that the country is in urgent need of attracting foreign investment to cope with its economic downturn."

First, this story, while possible, seems highly implausible, given North Korea's official view of itself and the value of its homogeneity. It is often claimed that marriage between a North Korean and foreigner is actually illegal, though North Koreans I've asked have said otherwise. That, said the social pressure against such a move would be staggering. To now promote such unions for the good of the nation would not only be a dramatic policy shift, but would be highly contradictory.

Second, it will be interesting to see if this makes it over into English language media in the next couple days. It is after all the kind of thing outlets like the Daily Mail are keen to print.

This story doesn't have the inherent drama of the "Kim Jong Un is dead rumor" that gripped the world back in February, which originated on Weibo and came to dominate a news cycle. But if the "investment wives" story catches some buzz on the Chinese web and then gets picked up by Western outlets, it could be a signal that Chinese netizens are going to act as another - and separate - filter for how we get our North Korea "news".